U.S. West Coast Ports Announce Collaboration

Six major US West Coast ports and two western railroads recently announced their intent to collaborate at the World Shipping Summit (WSS) in Qingdao, China. The U.S. West Coast Collaboration (USWCC) is comprised of six container-ports on the U.S. West Coast—Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Oakland, Long Beach, and Los Angeles—along with BNSF Railway Company and Union Pacific Railroad.

According to Omar Benjamin, executive director, Port of Oakland, “Today’s economic conditions have compelled all of us to take a closer look at how we conduct our business to discover new approaches that yield improved results. This is happening throughout the entire supply chain, and U.S. West Coast ports and Western railroads are no exception. Our mission is to further strengthen the U.S. West Coast ports’ position as the preferred gateway for Asia cargo to and from the US Midwest and U.S. cities further east.”

Timothy Farrell, executive director of the Port of Tacoma, highlights the advantages that the ports offer in terms of shipping choices and access to growing US and international consumer markets. “We have more than 100 ships sailing to and from the West Coast each week,” Farrell says, “providing access to 80 ports in 36 key consumer markets around the world. Looking to the future, our ports will provide strategic access to America’s consumers, whose numbers are expected to grow to 228 million by 2030.”

John Kaiser, vice president and general manager, Union Pacific Railroad, comments, “Union Pacific has a long track record of investing in its network to support the growth of the West Coast ports and its customers. With valuable input from both, we use a systematic, structured approach. We have added capacity and enhanced service through new and expanded terminals, a new interline gateway and additional main line capacity. Working with the ports, we are creating faster, more reliable service, as well as greater access to growing markets throughout the United States.”

According to John Lanigan, BNSF executive vice president and chief marketing officer, “BNSF and the other members of the U.S. West Coast Collaboration are committed to helping shippers get more from their supply chains. At BNSF alone, we have invested $30 billion to create a rail network that delivers more goods, to more markets faster and with less environmental impact than all-water alternatives."

Richard Steinke, executive director, Port of Long Beach, says, “The U.S. West Coast Ports are major players in world trade because of our deep water, vast container terminals, an unrivaled roadway and rail network, and the neighboring warehousing to complement our ports. These advantages enable us to handle more than $450 billion in trade a year.”

Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, emphasizes the U.S. West Coast rail network and infrastructure. “Beyond our local markets, the West Coast ports offer 200-250 weekly trains to all major intermodal hubs in the United States. Our terminals are served by both on-dock and near-dock facilities that guarantee cargo shipments leave our docks within eight hours of arrival by ship. Based on a scenario of 8,000 TEUs per acre, our total U.S. West Coast capacity today is almost 41 million TEUs and growing.” Transit times from China to the U.S. West Coast, she adds, are 10 to 14 days, with rail from four-six days to the Midwest and East Coast.

Members of the USWCC traveled to Washington, D.C., this past summer to carry the message to the federal level – a national goods movement plan is essential for sustaining America’s role in global trade; and that more federal resources are necessary to maximize the advantages of moving goods from Asia through the U.S. West Coast.

Meetings with top leadership among the ports and rails followed soon thereafter and a strong commitment was made to develop a new collaborative effort that would achieve the following objectives: Identify and communicate the strengths and advantages of shipping through the U.S. West Coast with ocean carriers and cargo owners; clarify and correct misinformation and/or misperceptions about the U.S. West Coast ports and the Western railroads; create one strong voice in Washington advocating for investment in U.S. West Coast gateway intermodal infrastructure, and promoting a strong national goods movement strategy.

The benefits of the combined gateway include:

Service: 30+ ocean carriers, two Class I rail networks, supported by trucking and logistics services and warehousing facilities. 31 container terminals with 225 cranes and more than 2000 hectares of capacity

Network: 100+ weekly vessel calls with direct connections to 80 ports in 36 countries and links to multiple North American road and rail routes

Cost efficiency: Closest U.S. ports to Asia, lower fuel consumption, larger economies of scale

Reliability: Multiple ports/routing options, ample labor force, proven track record

Responsibility: Lowest carbon emissions to U.S. markets, proactive environmental programs

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